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Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Dear BBC: why we care

The original BBC Radio 2 Drivetime Dreamteam, including Simon Mayo, Matt Williams and Bobbie Pryor
It's now three months since the BBC changed the format of the much-loved and award winning BBC Radio 2 Drivetime programme, pairing Simon Mayo with Jo Whiley and ditching Simon's posse, above, and most of the best content.

This is "halfway day" for Lewis Carnie, the Radio 2 controller, who gave a couple of high handed interviews before the change happened but has been missing in action ever since.  He told us the show would need six months to "bed in."

In those three months, one of the petitions demanding for the return of the original show has grown to 15,000 signatures, and every day more people join the Facebook group.

Today the supporters of the original show have blitzed Twitter, Facebook and the BBC's complaints process. There seems to be a suspicious news blackout on the whole thing. Complaints about the deplorable Love Island TV show (2,600) was reported by BBC News, yet the petition (15,000 names) was not. To put this in perspective, the audience for Drivetime is (currently) far bigger than anything Love Island enjoyed.

Below, I have chosen a few of the letters and stories from the Facebook group, to show the suits why we care so much. You;ll find more in my posts here, here and here.

Email sent to Messrs Shennan (Bob, Director of BBC Radio) and Carnie

Mr Shennan, Mr Carnie

You must realise by now the error you made in radically changing the format of the Simon Mayo Drivetime Show.
You had then an award winning show that brought real pleasure, every day, to millions of people - young and old, male and female.
Now that has been destroyed, and its replacement is simply not working.
We all make mistakes in life. Captains of industry do it, politicians do it, even the finest football managers do it. No one is infallible.
The problem is in not acting to rectify the problem.
Winners accept that things haven’t worked, and change course instantly. Losers blindly plough on, and then are eventually forced to change, but not before inflicting unnecessary pain, suffering and (sometimes irreparable) damage to their organisations.
You have the chance to change - please grasp the opportunity now before it’s too late.

Gordon Young


Letter to the BBC on behalf of the 5,000 strong Facebook group Bring back Simon Mayo's Dreamteam on Drivetime

Dear Sirs,

You will by now be aware that a great number of BBC licence fee payers are disgruntled enough to have formed and joined a Facebook group about the way that the Simon Mayo Drivetime show has been unceremoniously dumped and replaced by a very poor substitute of a programme of which the two main members of the team, Simon Mayo and Jo Wiley, are now absent for holidays right in the middle of the “bedding in” season (your words in the numerous letters, not mine). How could this have even been thought about when planning the launch of a new show and with a controversial line up? The show which has been removed was a fun and all-inclusive – young children right through to the more senior of listeners, a group in which I now nearly find myself.

Such is the frustration experienced by people that many have emailed the BBC directly to express their concern. Your reply to each is basically a selection of standard phrases and sentences designed to make the reply look personal. Can you not understand that by the volume of email complaints and random commenting on any Radio 2 show that we, the listeners, communicate with each other? I am sure that the intention was not to be patronising to individuals, but by comparing replies it is clear this is what is happening. It is high handedness in the extreme and disrespectful to your listening public.

It is interesting that the letters now no longer have the reference to there being no right of appeal. This response was appalling and really did show what the hierarchy of BBC Radio really thinks about the public. This alone was almost enough to make me retune to other radio broadcasters. We do have a right of appeal and this is included within your own charter. Should we not be happy with a proper review our response to the decision could be to listen to shows on other stations. Your own marketing people cannot be blind to the comments made by other radio stations welcoming new listeners? We do know that the BBC has "moles" within the posting public, and some of these are really quite unpleasant, but this will be the subject of a separate formal complaint from me to you (unintentional reference there) and Facebook for allowing this to happen and continue.

We are all licence fee payers and, as the BBC so boldly states, the BBC is owned by the people. We have no choice about paying, that is enshrined in law but as a consequence you should regard what the listeners are saying. To just disregard a very large group of people who have all expressed the same view is just ignorant.

The egos who have made the decision to remove this show, and clearly other changes are being planned, should be stopped now before further damage is done not just to Radio 2 but to BBC Radio in general. There would be more sympathy from the listening public if the people in charge accepted that the new format just does not work. You have stated that Simon and Jo have known each other for 25 years. That makes them friends, or acquaintances, it does not make them a good team – they are just too different. I like cream and I like lemon juice, but mix the two and you will have a curdled mess which is unappetising. This is what has happened to the Drivetime Show.

You will be receiving a great deal of emails and other communications today and I really hope that you read and respond to each of them separately as, despite what you may think, people really do care and can vote on change by the use of the tuning dial on their radio.

Thank you,

Bill Cummings
For and on behalf of our 5055 members


Facebook posts by Paul Loughlin


I have read the letters received by some today. How patronising and condescending they are. They appear in their Text to be rather like a teacher humiliating a student. Well BBC let me tell you something. Good Radio is a very rare thing these days. Every man and his dog believe that they can do it. That in essence is what is wrong. I grew up fascinated by the radio. Kenny Everett. Terry Wogan. Ken Bruce. Jimmy Young. Even the likes of Henry Kelly. Sarah Kennedy. And Bob Harris. Later we had Steve Wright. Chris Evans and the utterly fantastic Alex Lester. Where I'm going with this is Simon Mayo belongs on that list. He is a brilliant broadcaster and the reason for change within drivetime was neither wanted or needed. An idea to fulfill a desire to have more female hosts has resulted in both a terrible annihilation of a great show and a backlash towards Jo Whiley. Well done BBC!!! Radio fans are loyal. But also are far from stupid. This new show is awkward and poor. So very very poor. In the end. Patronising the listeners wont do. As license payers we require more than that. Great radio is indeed rare. Thanks to you even rarer now. The way you are treating this wonderful medium it could soon be extinct. Thanks for that!!

And in reply to Lewis Carnie's assertion that there was a big protest when Chris Evans took over the Breakfast show from Terry Wogan


I remember it well. After many fun mornings listening Terry Wogan announced to us TOGs that he was leaving the breakfast show. After picking myself up off the floor it was also stated Chris Evans would be the new host. I approached that with an open mind and to be fair Chris is a natural. Having Moira Stewart on the show was a master stroke and along with Vassos Alexander the show is brilliant. Great chemistry and a fun show. The point I want to make is Sir Terry retired (sort of) and went to Sunday mornings. Chris was asked to be the new host and after a while he flourished. In the case of Simon Mayo. He has created a great show and for 8 years it was all you would want. Funny. Inventive and great music. A wonderful dynamic in the studio. Suddenly!! Jo Whiley is just dropped in there.(dropped in it if you ask me!!) Most of the team go and the show (sorry to say) really sucks the big one!!! The audience can't accept the new show. We all loved the real one. Whilst Chris replaced Terry due to the togmeister leaving the slot. Jo has just been sent in and the end result is a awful dynamic. Poor chemistry and the whole thing is dull!. Please Radio 2. It's not too late!!
Director of Radio at the BBC, Bob Shennan
Bob Shennan, Director of BBC Radio
Lewis Carnie, BBC Radio 2 Controller
Lewis Carnie, Controller of BBC Radio 2 

How about it guys?


So gentlemen, what do you say? Remember, we forgive very quickly when those who got it wrong apologize, and put it right. Coca Cola, Toblerone, legions of England football team managers. There would actually be huge kudos in restoring the original show in terms of PR spin.

I absolutely get why you parachuted a female presenter into a mainstream programme. You had to. After years of paying women peanuts and putting them into night time slots  (and Mr Carnie and Mr Shennan were among those responsible, having been senior managers for many years), the BBC suddenly finds it has no option.

But now we have the problem of what do we do with Jo, because you know as well as we do that she hasn't got the right personality for the Drivetime show.

Bob, I'm sure you could have a word with Tony (Lord Hall) and get her moved to TV.  Win win, because that would be seen as a promotion! She likes gardening  (and so do I, but I would be willing to tolerate her on Gardeners' World just to get her off Drivetime....) and there all those programmes where the BBC broadcasts "new music" like Florence and the Machine  (not really all that new) from various pop festivals. She could do those.

Or is this the start of the end of Radio 2?


Some of us have noticed that you seem determined to lower the age of the average Radio 2 listener, and you may possibly have some Machiavellian plot brewing to merge Radios 1 and 2.  In which case, millions more listeners for Magic, Absolute and Smooth. And with their increased revenues from ads and listeners, one of them will be bound to offer Simon and the original Dreamteam a berth.














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Monday, 30 July 2018

BBC Radio 2 #DriveTime protest, 30 July update

This week I'm featuring an excellent video in the style of Bohemian Rhapsody - please like and share - and a letter below from one of the Facebook group members. He is sending the letter to Simon Mayo and Matt Williams, via their new books podcast (which tellingly, shot to #1 in the podcast chart as soon as it came out).  The letter describes very well the Radio 2 audience's love and affection for Simon and Matt.

If you want to get involved in trying to get the BBC to end its failing efforts to "bed-in" the appalling new format for the revamped 5pm show, "Jo and Simon," please sign the petition and join the Facebook group

It might seem that the BBC has imposed an old-fashioned "D Notice" style blackout on any response to the mounting criticism of the new format, three months after it launched.  But don't be deceived:  every tweet, every email, is a knife in the heart of Head of Radio 2 Lewis Carnie, and Radio 2 Controller Bob Shennan.

Letter from the 4,000+ members of the Facebook Group Bring Back Simon Mayo’s Dreamteam on Drivetime

Dear Simon and Matt,

I am emailing you today on behalf of a 4,000+ strong Facebook group to give you our personal thank you for eight years of a brilliant show. We want to thank you for eight years of entertainment, hilarity, and, above all, friendship.

Your show was like tuning in to a group of friends who were clearly enjoying themselves and bouncing off each other. Running jokes made us laugh, the confessions and Matt's laugh made us howl, Sanjeen's confession made us cry. The homework kept us informed and your interviewing skills when you had an expert on the next day showed just how fine a broadcaster you are.

Sitting in a car in traffic on the motorway can be a lonely place, we welcomed you into our vehicles and our homes and we never felt too alone. The Seven o'clock pips always seemed to come round too soon. People no longer have their friends with them while making the tea.

Sadly the BBC decided that the perfect show had to be messed with. We respect Jo as the excellent broadcaster that she is, we just feel it's the wrong show for her. When she was shoehorned in, the show became flat and Simon, you don't sound like you're enjoying it either. The biggest problem is the lack of Matt. Personally I can't stand sport, but Matt, you weren't just 'sports guy' (as referred to by Steve Wright) you were an integral part of the show and one of our friends as were Nigel and Bobbie. How will we know now whether it's ok to put the heating on?

The confessions podcasts used to be the highlight of our week. Most no longer download it now. Thanks to several of our group, we now have a confessions podcast file share with nearly every podcast ever produced, they make for much easier listening.

Your jingle 'It's Later Than You Think' is very fitting, we never knew it was so late in the shows lifespan.

Unfortunately many of your loyal fans have tuned out, Magic FM gaining a large part of your former audience.

We hope that one day the BBC can see the error in its ways, or that you can find another organisation to take your show and team to.

To quote the late Sir Terry, thank you for being our friend. We love you and we miss your friendship. Different times.

Suzanna has stopped ironing.

Regards, your loyal listeners
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Monday, 23 July 2018

Radio 2 #DriveTime protest update, 23 July

I'm starting a weekly update on the growing protest about unwelcome changes made to the BBC Radio 2 Drivetime programme. This follows my letter to the Director-General and other luminaries last week.  There's a fantastic group on Facebook and a petition here. 
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Wednesday, 18 July 2018

#DriveTime Protest

This post might not make sense to many of you (particularly US readers) but indulge me while I share a letter I've sent to the Director-General of the BBC, Tony Hall, in protest at the changes made to the Radio 2 Simon Mayo #DriveTime programme.

If you also feel strongly about this, please sign the petition. Keep up the pressure on the BBC by sending complaints. There is also a friendly Facebook group here.

LETTER TO TONY HALL, BBC DIRECTOR-GENERAL


Lord Hall

Director-General

The BBC

Portland Place

London WIA 1AA


Cc Anne Bulford, Bob Shennan, Lewis Carnie


July 17 2018


Dear Lord Hall

I’m afraid I am another of the BBC Radio 2 #DriveTime whingers, the people you assumed would “move on” or go away after our favourite show was dramatically changed.

I am writing to you by snail mail because the widespread protests on social media don’t seem to be eliciting much response from you, Ms Bulford, Mr Shennan and Mr Carnie. I imagine your social media moderators and PR teams have been keeping you appraised of the ongoing furore and there are all sorts of “defcon” meetings happening in conference room Frankie Howerd.

It was a sad day for me last Thurs when, faced with my usual 60 mile drive from work, (a senior marketing post I took up a year ago – showing that 50-somethings are not change averse) I couldn’t face the strident tones of Jo Whiley any longer, despite giving the revamped show a 10 week chance.

A drive time show has to have some special ingredients for the frazzled commuter.  Simon Mayo and team had delivered this in spades, to audiences of millions. That audience is dwindling by the day, as I’m sure you’re already aware.

After a stressful day I want to imagine myself in the studio on a Thursday with Nigel Barden cooking up a storm. I can just imagine the fragrant smells. I want to guffaw with laughter, as I’m stuck in yet another tailback on the M11, as Matt and Bobbie “corpse” at Simon’s put-on accents in the Confession.

I really don’t want to have “new music” rammed down my throat or another interview with a band flogging a new album.  I don’t want to squirm with embarrassment at Jo Whiley’s lack of empathy during interviews with normal people who aren’t musicians. And even the Confession has turned into a rushed damp squib. Simon has lost all his sparkle next to his humourless assassin.

Valour in admitting defeat


There is no shame in admitting you got it wrong. Good companies admit their mistakes and the public forgive them. Coca Cola and Apple (when Taylor Swift boycotted them) are just two.

If you’re determined to sit it out for a year and wait for the listening figures, the humiliation will be far worse and you’ll have to sack Lewis Carnie and do some wholesale moving around of presenters.

Hold your hands up. Move Jo Whiley to another slot. We understand all too well the mess the BBC has got itself into, with institutional misogyny around pay for women and so few women in top presenting jobs.  Yes, we know the problem. We realise you have to sort it. But parachuting Whiley into Drivetime has not proved a solution.  I have nothing against women on Radio 2.  I love Liza Tarbuck and wish Sara Cox could replace Chris Evans.  Janice Long and Annie Nightingale should still be on the airwaves. But Jo Whiley is not in their league. She’s a new music specialist, a DJ, and nothing more.

As a Baby Boomer you know yourself we’ll never give up. We’re not going to let it drop over the next few months. We are furious that a successful show was changed, without any research. The justification given so far is lame in the extreme.  “We want to attract younger listeners”.  Yes, as if the baby boomer population isn’t already the biggest cohort in the UK. As if “younger” people would be lured over by a 53 year old.  “The programme has been running for eight years.”  Yes, and Ken Bruce and Steve Wright have been running a lot longer – and both of those programmes need refreshing.

Please stop patronising the loyal listeners of Radio 2 and give us back what we want. Move Whiley to a 7pm slot, or do something with the horrendous Saturday morning schedule, and restore Matt, Nigel and all the other ingredients that made the original DriveTime show so special.

This letter will also be published on my blog, https://www.isthismutton.com and shared via social media.


Yours sincerely




















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